Democrats

Paula Sophia For HD 88; Connie Johnson For U.S. Senate; Freda Deskin For Schools Superintendent

Paula Sophia

I have three endorsements for Tuesday’s Democratic runoff election.

First, runoff elections are notorious for their lack of voter participation. It’s vitally important for Democrats to get out the vote in this particular runoff election if only to show they are still viable as a political force in conservative, Republican-dominated Oklahoma.

It should only take a few minutes to vote given the paucity of races. The voter lines shouldn’t be that long even with a robust turnout since the ballot will be short.

The clear choice in the Oklahoma House Representative District 88 race is retired police officer and accomplished writer Paula Sophia, pictured above. The winner in this race will win the overall election because no Republican or Independent filed for the seat. This is important to realize. HD 88 voters are deciding the race tomorrow, not in the general election against a Republican.

Sophia faces Jason Dunnington, a former pastor and a candidate who extols his right-wing religious past as a reason you should vote for him. Don’t we have enough right-wing religious folks at the state Capitol? People I know who have met Dunnington on the campaign trail claim he comes off as charming and impressive, but his past just doesn’t fit with the liberal spirit and funkiness of HD 88, which includes the Paseo and Plaza districts. Dunnington is the candidate that most Republicans, undoubtedly, want to win tomorrow. Remember: The race will be decided tomorrow.

Let’s be clear. A vote for Dunnington tomorrow is a vote sanctioning right-wing religious and conservative ideology. A vote for Sophia is a vote for progressive values, such as embracing diversity and equality.

Sophia is a perfect fit for HD 88. Here’s my earlier endorsement for her in which I argued:

This is what Sophia . . . will bring to the job: Intelligence, vast historical knowledge of Oklahoma City because of her award-winning police work in a 22-year career and the ability to serve the varied interests of her constituents in a district considered one of the most liberal in the state.

As a prose writer and poet, often seen wearing a signature beret, she will also bring style and difference to a staid legislature now dominated by ultra conservatives intent on denying people equal rights and underfunding education at all levels.

As someone who struggled with gender conflict as she eventually transitioned from a man to a woman, Sophia will bring empathy and understanding to those constituents in need of help for a variety of reasons or those constituents who don’t feel part of the conservative Oklahoma status quo or who define or want to define themselves outside of the rigid, cultural codes of heteronormativity.

Again, here’s my full endorsement. HD 88 voters also have a chance to make history if they elect Sophia. She would become the first openly transgendered candidate to win office in a state legislature in the nation. That would send a huge message to the world that there are, indeed, Oklahomans who embrace diversity and equality.

Someone in HD 88 casually mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that they were afraid Sophia could get beat by a Republican in the general election.

Let me repeat: The vote tomorrow determines the winner of the seat because no Republicans filed to run for the position.

Image of Constance Johnson

My next endorsement is for state Sen. Connie Johnson, pictured right, who faces what everyone in the media here calls a “perennial candidate” in the race to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. That perennial candidate is 79 years old and apparently makes it a hobby to run for various state offices to make some point that’s difficult to discern. He also apparently does very little actual campaigning. Johnson received the most votes in the primary election, but she didn’t garner enough votes to get beyond the 50 percent threshold needed to prevent a runoff.

I wrote about the 62-year-old Johnson and her career here. In that post, I argued:

. . . Johnson, on the other hand, is an accomplished state senator with bona fide progressive credentials. She’s running a credible and viable campaign with volunteers and donors. She may face an uphill battle against the better-funded Lankford in the general election, but this runoff election is simply a waste of Democrats’ time and money. They need to come out in big numbers Aug. 26 to support Johnson, and that means party workers at all levels throughout the state need to work to get out the vote for her.

I do expect Johnson to win this election and face U.S. Rep. Lankford in the general election for Coburn’s seat, but a big turnout for Johnson could energize Democrats here.

I also wrote this about her:

Johnson is well known in the Oklahoma City area as an advocate for corrections reform, reproductive rights for women and wider medical access. While some Democrats have either lost their voice during the recent conservative wave in Oklahoma or given up the political scene entirely, Johnson has been an unwavering fighter for economic equality and the rights of women and minorities.

In the end, it’s simply a no-brainer. Johnson has the political and work experience that makes her by far the best Democratic candidate in this race. There’s simply no question about it. Again, here’s my full endorsement.

I also support Freda Deskin for state Schools Superintendent in the Democratic runoff against John Cox. Deskin has received the endorsement of Victor Hutchison, a founding member of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE) and an emeritus zoology professor at the University of Oklahoma. The Tulsa World has also endorsed Deskin.

Hutchison is concerned that Cox, at a recent meeting, didn’t take a stance against those who oppose the teaching of evolution in schools. In a recent email to OESE supporters, Hutchison personally endorsed Deskin, arguing:

Deskin is clearly the best candidate, with a long and wide-ranging experience in education at all levels. At the meeting in Norman Cox’s answer to a question about teaching evolution, his first response was “I believe in God.” In follow up statements he made it clear that evolution in public schools was not one of his concerns; he did this by quickly changing to other topics. He was not well-received by that audience and many there thought he was the worst of the four candidates who appeared on different dates.

The World argued:

Deskin understands public schools, and we believe she would be the kind of collegial leader that Oklahoma education needs to follow Barresi.

Her platform is not ideal, but it is closer to the reform agenda the state needs than her opponent.

I especially think voters should note Hutchison’s concerns.

Should it be Al McAffrey or Tom Guild for the U.S. Representative seat in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional district runoff election on the Democratic side? It’s just too close to call for me. I have known and talked to both candidates through the years. Guild was a colleague of mine at the University of Central Oklahoma where we worked together on the UCO and state affiliates of the American Association of University Professors. McAffrey made history by becoming the first openly gay Oklahoma legislator, an event that is extremely important in the march to equality here. Each candidate would be a solid representative on the Democratic side in the race, which pundits have argued is a sure victory for Republicans in the general election.

Constance Johnson For U.S. Senate

Image of Constance Johnson

It should be a no-brainer that state Sen. Constance Johnson is the clear choice in the Aug. 26 Democratic runoff election for the U.S. senatorial seat vacated by Tom Coburn.

It’s important Democrats, for the sake of the state party and its future direction, get out the vote next week and select Johnson to face Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford in the general election.

The Oklahoma City progressive faces what the state media calls “a perennial candidate” in the primary race. The 79-year-old Jim Rogers apparently makes it a hobby to run for political office in the state and does little campaigning when he runs. He managed to pull out more than 57,000 votes in the June primary election, a setback for the state’s Democratic Party.

The 62-year-old Johnson, on the other hand, is an accomplished state senator with bonafide progressive credentials. She’s running a credible and viable campaign with volunteers and donors. She may face an uphill battle against the better-funded Lankford in the general election, but this runoff election is simply a waste of Democrats’ time and money. They need to come out in big numbers Aug. 26 to support Johnson, and that means party workers at all levels throughout the state need to work to get out the vote for her.

The governing board of the Oklahoma Democratic Party has rightly endorsed Johnson in the runoff election.

Johnson is well known in the Oklahoma City area as an advocate for corrections reform, reproductive rights for women and wider medical access. While some Democrats have either lost their voice during the recent conservative wave in Oklahoma or given up the political scene entirely, Johnson has been an unwavering fighter for economic equality and the rights of women and minorities.

In a recent Tulsa World article, Johnson put it this way: “I think we’re seeing Democratic candidates who are unashamedly and unabashedly Democrats. When we stand up and speak to our base, we will see a resurgence of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma.” There are many Oklahoma Democrats who believe this, often arguing it’s better to lose elections without violating basic principles than lose elections while pandering to conservative voters.

Johnson served on the state Senate staff for 24 years before her election in 2005.

Here are two more of Johnson’s positions: (1) She wants to outlaw the death penalty. (2) She wants to legalize marijuana. These positions might not find support among ultra-conservatives here in Oklahoma, and that’s why I mentioned them, but they are becoming more and more accepted throughout the country. Six states, for example, have abolished the death penalty in recent years. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Johnson’s position on these and other issues are far more mainstream and enlightened than some of the wackier extremist legislation offered up by Republicans in recent years at the state Capitol.

The Lankford camp will undoubtedly try to demonize Johnson as a “liberal” in the general election and assume victory in conservative Oklahoma. That’s far better, and maybe even instructive for future races, than Lankford and his crew laughing all the way to Washington at the Oklahoma Democratic Party if Rogers wins the runoff.

Again, Johnson is the clear choice for the U.S Senate in the Democratic primary Aug. 26.

Clear Choice: Paula Sophia For House District 88

Image of Paula Sophia

(She’s a perfect blend of artistic inspiration and the pragmatic. An inspired writer. A down-to-earth beat cop helping neighbors and fighting crime. She embodies what we might call the soul or spirit of HD 88, an eclectic area of Oklahoma City known for sending liberal, open-minded politicians to the statehouse.)

Paula Sophia, a retired Oklahoma City police officer and a well-known local writer, is the clear choice for State Representative in the city's diverse, artistic and progressive House District 88.

Sophia faces her opponent, Jason Dunnington, in an Aug. 26 Democratic runoff election that will determine the winner of the overall race since no Republican or Independent is running for the position.

Dunnington, by all accounts, is a sincere candidate and decent person, but he doesn’t offer as much as Sophia in terms of her work experience with people on the day-to-day neighborhood level and the deep manner in which she embraces and lives a life of diversity and tolerance. In his online campaign material, Dunnington describes himself as a former pastor, cites his time spent as a student at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany and points out his father is a SNU dean. I consider the Nazarene Church a right-wing religious institution opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage and, like most right-wing religious organizations, basically in favor of at least some forms or shades of theocracy. Surely, many HD 88 voters will be skeptical of someone who bases his appeal for support on his ultra intense right-wing religious background, something he calls his “great heritage.”

This is what Sophia, pictured right, will bring to the job: Intelligence, vast historical knowledge of Oklahoma City because of her award-winning police work in a 22-year career and the ability to serve the varied interests of her constituents in a district considered one of the most liberal in the state.

As a prose writer and poet, often seen wearing a signature beret, she will also bring style and difference to a staid legislature now dominated by ultra conservatives intent on denying people equal rights and underfunding education at all levels.

As someone who struggled with gender conflict as she eventually transitioned from a man to a woman, Sophia will bring empathy and understanding to those constituents in need of help for a variety of reasons or those constituents who don’t feel part of the conservative Oklahoma status quo or who define or want to define themselves outside of the rigid, cultural codes of heteronormativity.

Sophia, I should note, is a former graduate student of mine, and I know her, on one level, as an excellent creative writer, a novelist who brings her characters to life with precision and psychological realism in her book Shadowboxer. On another level, I know her as someone completely dedicated to her community as I’ve followed her life and career on social media and in the local press and through her own writing.

Along with her police career, Sophia is an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm. She has two children and lives with her wife, Pam, in the Paseo District of Oklahoma City.

She’s a perfect blend of artistic inspiration and the pragmatic. An inspired writer. A down-to-earth beat cop helping neighbors and fighting crime. She embodies what we might call the soul or spirit of HD 88, an eclectic area of Oklahoma City known for sending liberal, open-minded politicians to the statehouse.

As a State Representative, Sophia will undoubtedly be a progressive voice in the legislature in the tradition of Al McAffrey and Kay Floyd. Taking on the conservative majority can be frustrating and sometimes just incredibly boring, but Sophia has repeatedly shown she has the right stuff and long-term tenacity to fight for progressive values, such as adequate education funding and equal rights.

With large majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans run state government right now. The few progressive voices we do have at the legislature are often drowned out by all the conservative dogma and ideology. I believe Sophia has a better chance of getting heard in all the right-wing posturing. Her election would send a message of equality and tolerance in a way Dunnington’s election could never match. For that reason alone, and given the state legislature’s massive conservative majorities, she deserves the position, but it’s her superior qualifications that really make her the indisputable choice.

HD 88 voters should make an important political statement and keep their district a vibrant, thriving area of Oklahoma City by sending Paula Sophia to the state Capitol on Aug. 26.

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